Not available in 2023/24
GV4B8      Half Unit
Civil Wars: Concepts and Cases

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr William Kissane


This course is available on the MSc in Comparative Politics, MSc in Conflict Studies, MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe, MSc in Culture and Conflict in a Global Europe (LSE & Sciences Po) and MSc in Gender, Peace and Security. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The course examines social science explanations of the origins, intractability and outcomes of civil wars. It does this through the comparative analysis of various cases. These cases may vary from year to year. Particular stress is on: Civil war and civilization. The concept of civil war. Patterns of civil war since 1945. Large N approaches. Decolonisation and democratisation as causes of civil war. The emergence of security dilemmas. Partition and civil war. The idea of global civil war.


This course provides a combination of seminars and lectures totalling a minimum of 30 hours in the Lent Term. There will be a reading week in week 6 of the LT for private study and assessment preparation.

Formative coursework

All students are expected to submit one non-assessed essay of 1500 words.

Indicative reading

Bill Kissane, Nations Torn Asunder; The Challenge of Civil War, OUP 2016.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the ST.

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 41.4
Merit 54.3
Pass 2.9
Fail 1.4

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2022/23: 29

Average class size 2022/23: 14

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Lecture capture used 2022/23: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Communication